Top vintage expected despite dry season pain

Lauren CelenzaCountryman

The State’s wine grape growers may have just survived one of their hottest, driest and shortest seasons, but the end product is expected to be well worth the wait.

The season put wineries and vineyards under pressure to achieve the right degree of ripeness and to harvest and crush the grapes in time.

Wine Industry Association of WA president John Griffiths said crop levels varied throughout the State.

“The Great Southern in particular suffered through the drought, but across the board it was a dry hot season,” he said.

“Some areas had crops that were better than average, while there were some that had below-average crops.

“The most extreme change was in the far South West throughout Manjimup and Pemberton, which experienced substantially warmer than normal weather, but in the Swan Valley and the north, it’s usually hot.”

Across the State, 60,000 to 65,000 tonnes of wine grapes were harvested, with some grapes being left on vines due to oversupply.

Despite the tough season, Mr Griffiths said wine makers were feeling positive about this year’s vintage.

“Once again, wine makers will be able to pick and choose grapes, and they will choose them from sound, well-managed vineyards,” he said.

“They are also going to buy the varieties for the wines that are in demand in the current market.”

Mr Griffiths said the hot, dry weather meant it would be a disease-free year for vineyards.

“The grapes ripened quickly, generally two to three weeks earlier than expected,” he said.

“Not only were they ripe earlier, it was an early intense and a short vintage. It put wineries under pressure but the quality is great.”

Mr Griffiths said white wines in particular would be very good this year, because the grapes ripened favourably in hot weather.

“The reds will also be very good, with rich, bold flavours,” he added.

Carmel winemaker Josh Davenport said despite yield losses, the vineyard expected a good vintage.

“Reds were down in yield by about 8 per cent and bird damage was pretty severe,” he said.

Mr Davenport said birds had looked to the grapes for sustenance, because of the dry weather.

“Some of the un-netted vines lost up to 50 per cent of the fruit,” Mr Davenport said.

Birds did not damage the fruit on netted vines.

“It was one of the earliest vintages on record, but ripening was pretty even so the quality is good,” Mr Davenport added.

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